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Scott Ostler

Master of Cliches Makes Appearance at the Fall Classic

October 20, 1987|Scott Ostler

Hi, fans. We're here in the losers' locker room, talking with Sledge Simmons, one of baseball's great all-time sluggers and cliche artists.

Sledge, another one-sided loss for you guys out there tonight. How would you assess the situation?

"What can I say? We gave it our best shot, they beat us fair and square. It was a good old-fashioned butt-kicking."

Just like in the old days, you mean?

"Just like last night, I mean. Hey, I'm not going to alibi or make excuses. I'm not going to mention my sinus flare-up or the fact that our team bus broke down and we had to jog five miles to the game, in the snow. They beat us fair and square. Give them credit. Tomorrow's another day. The early bird gets the worm."

They simply beat you, then?

"Look, I don't want to take anything away from those guys. They executed and we didn't. They were incredibly lucky, of course, and the umpires appeared to be on their payroll, and they played completely out of their skulls, and they caught us at a bad time, and . . . "

But you don't want to take anything away from them?

"No sir. We have a lot of respect for that team. We give them all the credit in the world."

I guess complacency won't be a problem for you guys?

"Complacency? We literally don't know the meaning of the word. I'll tell you this, though--we've got our work cut out for us. This is the Fall Classic, my friend, this is the big enchilada, the center ring, this is for the whole ball of wax, all the marbles. The chips are down, it's do or die, our backs are to the wall, there's no tomorrow, we can't let down and we can't let up. We've got to hang our heads high, take the bitter with the sour. Or is that Chinese food? Uh, what was the question?"

I forget. You were talking before about intestinal fortitude?

"Right, that's something I picked up playing winter ball in the Dominican, but it only bothers me when I eat spicy food."

I was referring to internal courage.

"Look, I don't care what you hear, my drinking problems are behind me. In fact, as you know, we've overcome a lot of adversity this season. I don't want to make any excuses, but we've had a lot of distractions. The problems in Angola, the Bork hearings, Elvis' birthday, our entire pitching staff defecting to the Mexican League in June.

"Those are things you have to put behind you. We never gave up on ourselves, even when everyone said we were dog meat. We didn't let it get us down, and that's the mark of a great team.

"For instance, when I lost my shoe endorsement contract after I got thrown out 17 straight times trying to steal second, I didn't stop taking chances on the basepaths."

Not even when your first base coach tied your shoelaces together?

"That's another thing. This is a great bunch of guys, we're always joking, kidding, keeping each other loose. I think you'll see us come out loose tomorrow. We'll be relaxed and extra aggressive."

Which?

"Absolutely."

Do you expect your manager to make any lineup changes tomorrow?

"Personally, I myself expect to remain in the lineup, even though I did strike out looking five times tonight. I'll go along with whatever the skipper thinks is best for the team. As he always says, 'It's my way or the highway.' And I respect that, because he treats us all the same, as individuals.

"Still, I think I deserve to be in the lineup. If I ain't startin', I ain't departin'. I myself personally believe in my heart we have to stay with what got us here."

You mean the petty clubhouse bickering, second-guessing of your manager, substance-abuse problems, chronic dissention, turmoil and under-tipping?

"Hey, whatever works. This ballclub has a lot of character, and all I know is, we've just got to take each game one game at a time, suck it up, reach down, come out ready to play, but not overly ready. We've got to play within ourselves and rise to a new level. Execute the intangibles.

"It's simple. We've got to go out there tomorrow between the white lines and literally kick ourselves in the butt, really bust our tails."

That sounds painful.

"Sure, but that's the mark of a great team."

What is?

"Absolutely."

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